The internet is an amazing tool for enabling all kinds of creativity, and helps bring artists and their audiences together in new and exciting ways. However, as rewarding as working in the new digital landscape can be, it also requires creators to keep a closer eye on their creations to watch out for any infringement of their intellectual property. Let’s take a quick look at the basics of your rights and abilities as the creator of artwork and designs on the web.
What images can be used on Zazzle?
Before we talk about your rights, it’s important to acknowledge the rights of others! Any image or other content that you upload to Zazzle must be fully owned by you, part of the public domain (which is open for anyone to use), or something for which you have explicit permission for commercial use from the original creator/owner. A quick list of off-limits content would include: movies, TV shows, video games, brand names, sports teams, celebrities and nearly all images found via Google.
The general rule of thumb for public domain works is that this category covers most content created prior to 1923, but some pre-1923 works can still be held under copyright due to circumstances like family estate ownership. Always be sure to use entirely original content for your text and designs, and do your research to ensure you have explicit permission to use any older content that may be part of the public domain.
Who owns my images when I upload them to Zazzle?
The short answer: you do! When you upload your images to Zazzle, you grant us a license to display them on our site, sell them for you, and print them to send them out to your customers: that’s it! You are still the owner of your artwork, and can use it in any other way you see fit. You’re not giving us rights to your art but rather allowing us to show it off and bring it to life for you and your customer. You can find all of the details about how Zazzle uses your images and designs in our User Agreement and Designer License Agreement.
How can I protect my creations?
When you create something, you automatically are the copyright owner of that work. However, if you want to really go the extra mile in asserting your ownership, you can register you copyright via the United States Copyright Office. Should you come up with a great slogan, company/brand name or other unique word-based creation, you can also register for an official trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In your advanced store settings, you do have the option to enable a large patterned watermark over your Zazzle products, but we’ve found that the sales benefit of an attractive un-watermarked product image outweigh the amount of protection a watermark can provide.
What can I do if I find my work being used without permission?
If you discover that your work is being used without your permission elsewhere on the web, you have rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. By sending a DMCA infringement notice to the owner of the website where your work is being used inappropriately, the website owner is legally obligated to remove the content in question. To help give you an idea of the information required for a full DMCA notice, here is an example of the information that Zazzle requires should an intellectual property owner believe their work is being used without permission on Zazzle:
- an electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright or other intellectual property interest
- a description of the copyrighted work or other intellectual property that you claim has been infringed
- a description of where the material that you claim is infringing is located on the Zazzle Site
- your name, address, telephone number, and email address
- a statement by you that you have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright or intellectual property owner or its agent or the law
- a statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in your notice is accurate and that you are the copyright or intellectual property owner or authorized to act on the copyright or intellectual property owner’s behalf.
If you’re sending this information to a site other than Zazzle, input that site’s name where you see “Zazzle” above. Here are a few other tips when notifying website owners of infringement of your work:
- Be as specific as possible. Include the direct URL of both where you found your work being used without permission, and where your original version with your ownership clearly stated can be found.
- Send it to the right person. Do some research to find if the website has a copyright policy similar to ours with the proper contact information, or do a “whois” search to find out who owns the website.
- Spell out what you’re requesting. This is usually the removal of the image or content.
- Show as much proof as possible. If you can, include copyright or trademark registration numbers, proof of the date of creation, screenshots of the violation and your original work, and/or any other information that clearly shows that you are the originator of the image or content and it is being used without your permission.
- Verify that you’re the owner. This is usually the statement that we ask for above, where you attest under penalty of perjury that all of the information in your notice is correct.
How can I find out if my work is being used without permission?
While there’s no foolproof way to know for sure that your work is being used without permission, there are some tricks you can use to keep an eye out. You can try reverse image search features such as TinEye or Google Images. You can actually drag and drop an image right into the Google Images search bar, and it will show you similar images from around the web. You can also use an image by searching for the same title, keywords or descriptions that you used to define your creation. If you do come across an infringement, keep track of all of the information about where, when and how you found it so you can follow up on any infringement claims you send.
While the internet can enable some unscrupulous behavior, overall it has allowed artists and creators of all backgrounds to have a voice and a platform to share their creativity with the world. The joys of building a community and and audience where your talents can shine – and even allow you to build a freer creative life – far outweigh the lows of encountering a few bad apples. The best way to not let those bad apples win is to keep on creating amazing, original work that’s all you!